Monday, February 18, 2013
NOVEL ENDINGS By Rita Karnopp
There is one thing that is almost more important than the first sentence of your book. Can you guess what it is? It’s the last sentence of your book. If you end your book with a punch, with a satisfying thought, you reader will think about the story long after they stop reading ‘the end.’
It’s important to understand what you can and can’t do to write that successful novel ending that will entice agents, publishers and, more importantly, readers. How can you write a strong closer?
Characters or subplots - Don’t introduce any new characters or subplots within the last 50 pages, and if you do they should have been foreshadowed earlier, even if mysteriously. Why? You won’t have time to flesh them out before the end of the book. You don’t want a red-herring either. The last fifty pages should be tying all the loose ends together for a satisfying ending.
Over describing or explaining – Wouldn’t you agree that reading a book where the author has described everything to distraction is frustrating? If the book has me otherwise ‘hooked’ I find myself skimming the details or explanations. Keep description to a minimum, but maximize action and conflict.
A sense of surprise - Don’t you just love it when the book you’re reading ends with that ‘ah ha’ or ‘I didn’t catch that’ or ‘yes – I had a feeling’ or ‘I never would have thought of that – I love it?” The biggest surprise of the story will make the best ending ever. Readers love it when some early, slight detail becomes the great ‘ah ha’ moment at the end.
Involve your reader - Make sure you reader is invested in the story and becomes so involved that she cannot put down it down; in bed, at work, or even in the bathroom. Really, I was reading a book that had me so involved – I slipped it under my shirt at work so I could read just a few more pages in the bathroom! I’m not proud of it – but it’s true!
Happy or not endings – I’ve read some no so happy endings – I’m sure you have too. But even with the not-so happy ending, try to make it a lesson learned, or a future that looks brighter. Not all endings have a happily-ever-after ending, but try to leave the reader with some uplift.
Good in the end - We shouldn’t create perfect heroes or heroines. They should have flaws and some should even make some mistakes along the way. The story should allow the reader, and the character, to realize that in the end she has done the right thing. That she has come a long way and has learned something from her mistake(s).
Loose ends? – Nothing is more annoying than something planted early is the story, and has stuck with the reader, only to find it’s never addressed or solved by the end. Every question or clue you plant in a reader’s mind should be addressed, even if the answer is to say that a character will address that issue later, after the book ends.
Final words reflect your opening - Some time ago a multi-published author stated; “I make a point that my final sentence of my book will mirror events in the opening sentence or paragraph.” Wow, I had never thought of this before. When you begin writing your book you already have established a purpose. By the ending, make ensure all the snags and hitches support that beginning. It’s often called the tie-back tactic. Create a sense that the final words answer the foundation or beginning of the story.
Voice, tone and attitude – This applies to the entire story, but the ending even more so. I’ve often read an entire book and the final paragraph is a narrative ending. Say what? Who is this person? Why are you ending my story? Never tack on the voice of a narrator to explain the ending. It’s a real let-down. It snaps us out of the flow of the story. It truly will not suspend the disbelief.
Gimmick ending - Please, if nothing else has grabbed you in this blog, please head this comment. Don’t end your story with peculiar twists or trick endings. You’re reader has stuck with you to the end of your story. She has participated, cared, worried, and rooted for the characters. Don’t leave your reader feeling tricked or cheated. You want her to love the ending . . . and your book. You want her to ask, “What other books have this author written?”